Celebrating 100 years of Lotka-Volterra

A 100-year old model of population dynamics still holds some interesting secrets, says Stefano Allesina, from the University of Chicago, USA. His free online talk forms part of Ecology Live 2021. In a series of 25-minutes talks, the British Ecological Society broadcasts free talks from 12 great speakers on Zoom every Thursday from 4 March to 20 May 2021.

Stefano Allesina

In 1920, an excited Alfred Lotka thought he had cracked the problem of the ‘rhythm of nature’ dear to the Victorians. Lotka wrote a short article detailing an ecological model that would lead “to undamped, and hence indefinitely continued, oscillations”. In 1924, the same equations were proposed by Vito Volterra, who was inspired by data collected by his son-in-law on the effects of WWI on fisheries.

Their model is now at the foundation of much of our understanding of population dynamics and community ecology. I tell the stories behind the model and summarize a century of progress in this area. I conclude by showing that – even after 100 years – the Lotka-Volterra model still holds some interesting secrets.

Stefano Allesina
University of Chicago, USA

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